Holidays are coming, holidays are coming…

Well, its mid November. There are mince pies for sale in Tesco, frost to be scrpaed off the windscreen in the morning and Mariah Carey singing “All I Want For Christmas Is You” wafting from the car radio. There is no denying it, this years Christmas season has begun. And so its time to break out the eggnog and tinsel and decide what are my top five all time Christmas animations…

1. The Snowman
It was the song that brought a young Aled Jones to fame and a beautiful animation that brought us all to tears. So much better then Frosty!

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton and Henry Selick bring us an enticingly original and deliciously dark stop motion adventure that gives Christmas magic a gothic twist.

3. A Christmas Carol
Its not like there aren’t other films of this Charles Dickens story, heck even the muppets have given it a whirl. But in 2009 Disney knocked it out of the park with this incredible piece of 3D CG animation.

4. Robbie The Reindeer
It might look and feel like an Aardman prodcution, but this stop motion was actually created by the BBC… all be it by Aardmans Richard Goleszowski.

5. The Coke advert
Hey, I never said they had to be feature length animations and there is nothing that says its Xmas like the Coca-Cola advert.

Make Your Animations A Little Xtranormal.

If you have’t yet encountered xtranormal then let me enlighten you, xtranormal is a “free” online animation application that lets you create 1 or 2 character animations, complete with a script, using their special text-to-movie software. All you need to do is select your characters, set and sound scape and then start typing what you want your characters to say. You can also add in your choice of expressions, gestures, sound effects and camera angles to your film. And don’t panic you don’t need to know anything more fancy then drag-and-drop.

As you can see from my attempt, there are limits… not least to my scripting skills. Not everythings free and a lot of the characters and scenes etc cost a little extra to use. Additionally don’t expect Laurence Olivier style vocal performances from your actors, the voices will say what you’ve typed (most of the time) but not suprisingly with minimal inflection or emotion. Also your characters movements are minimal – you can select from a range of premade gestures but they’re not going to dancing around… not using the free online facilities anyway.

Which brings me to the topic of Xtranormals software, State. This, I’m guessing from the video posted on YouTube, gives you a lot more freedom of choice and movement but this time at the bargain price of $49.50. Personally I wasn’t willing, I’d prefer to go and download iClone if I just wanted to have some animated fun or learn Blender and produce real 3D, but thats just me. If you’ve tried it please feel free to leave a comment and tell me what I’m missing.

There’s a lot to be said for xtranormal. If you just want a bit of fun then its a fantastic tool, and if you want a simple way to test out a script, understand a scenes pacing or look at the effect of various camera angles then its excellent. However, if you think you are trying to create stuff for an animation showreel or think you might be the next James Cameron and are looking for the right too for making Avatar 2 then keep googling, xtranormal is not the tool you’re looking for.